Sun adds compiler to JavaFX platform

Sun adds compiler to JavaFX platform

Graphical application development platform advances

Sun Microsystems has been quiet about its JavaFX technology for building graphical applications since introducing it in May, but on Friday the company added a compiler to the platform.

Also on tap is an updated plug-in to outfit the open source NetBeans platform for building JavaFX applications. New online demonstrations also are being made available.

Based on the Swing GUI toolkit for Java, JavaFX is intended to bolster development of graphical user experiences for systems ranging from desktops to mobile clients and even TVs.

"JavaFX makes the power that existed within Swing more accessible to developers so they can create exciting applications," featuring visual interaction, said Jean Elliott, Sun's senior director of Java software product marketing.

At the JavaOne conference in May, Sun unveiled two critical components planned for the platform: JavaFX Script, which is a scripting language for content creation, and JavaFX Mobile, which provides a software system for mobile devices. JavaFX technologies are only in a very early stage of development. Applications will run with a Java Virtual Machine.

A beta release of JavaFX technology is intended for release at the JavaOne conference next May, but early access code -- described as "sub-alpha" code by Sun -- has been made available.

Source code for the OpenJavaFX Compiler is available here. The compiler enables JavaFX Script code to be compiled into Java code.

"What you really want to do is compile an entire program, get it all into Java to begin with and it compiles much faster," said Chet Haase, Sun Java chief client architect.

The NetBeans plug-in, meanwhile, will provide for developing JavaFX Script programs in the IDE. JavaFX programs can be built easier, Haase said. JavaFX programs will be available as NetBeans projects.

The plug-in will work with NetBeans 5.5 and is due to be incorporated this fall into NetBeans 6.0, the upcoming version of the IDE. The NetBeans 6.0 version of the plug-in features a preview of JavaFXPad integration. JavaFXPad is a lightweight tool for building graphical elements using JavaFX Script.

The NetBeans 5.5 plug-in can be accessed here, while the NetBeans 6.0 variant is available here.

Two demonstrations are available showing an instant messaging client and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) integration. Users must first have the Java development kit installed to view the demonstrations. The demonstrations can be found here.

With JavaFX Sun seeks to enable more lightweight, easier development of consumer-oriented applications, Haase said. These could include Web sites with rich animation and user interfaces that are more dynamic than a typical forms-based application, he said.

JavaFX joins what is becoming a crowded market for technologies to create graphical interfaces.

"The market is only recently crowded," said analyst Joe Niski, of Burton Group. Adobe's Flash and Flex technologies have been around for a while but have not generated a lot of excitement lately, Niski said. But Sun's JavaFX and Microsoft's new Silverlight platform have been added to the mix, he noted.

Sun is off to a good start with JavaFX, said Niski. "They have a really compelling story, at least with the platform penetration, because JavaFX will run on any JVM," Niski said.

"The one thing that it lacks is good graphical tooling targeting Web designers," he said.

"It's good to see Sun putting attention into the user experience," said Niski.

JavaFX extends beyond AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). "AJAX makes it easier to build more dynamic Web pages but it's still about static Web pages," Haase said. "It's not as rich an interface for the user," as JavaFX, he said.

JavaFX Script was built with developers of graphical and GUI applications in mind, Elliott said. JavaFX Script code was downloaded 3,000 times from May 13 to June 10.

Microsoft is set to soon ship a release candidate for Silverlight. A release candidate is considered a precursor to the general release of the technology.

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